As more small towns across the nation call for impeachment, some question their right to do so. Its not only their right, it is their obligation.
This March, five Vermont towns passed resolutions calling for the impeachment of George W. Bush (and some added Dick Cheney as well) for crimes committed against the United States and the Constitution. By late May, two more towns had added their voices and efforts were underway in several other towns to call for special town meetings to consider the issue.
Some question the wisdom of impeaching and whether or not small towns in a small state should have any say at all on national issues of great importance.
Let us start with the question of impeachment. Mr. Bush and Mr. Cheney have provided a veritable smorgasbord of impeachable offenses. They repeatedly tried to link Sadaam Hussein with the attacks of 9/11. We know now that there was no connection and that they had no evidence to back up their claims. They claimed that Saddam had weapons of mass destruction. We know now that he had no such weapons and that Bush and Cheney manipulated intelligence to bolster these false claims. Bush stated that the United States does not torture prisoners and continued to deny it even when the facts proved otherwise. The Geneva Conventions barring torture were signed by the U.S. shortly after World War II. Treaties so signed are the supreme law of the land according to article VI of the Constitution. The president ordered the wiretapping of U.S. citizens without a warrant, in direct contravention of the FISA law of 1978, and we have yet to learn the full extent of these illegal actions.
President Clinton lied about having sex in the oval office. The Republican Congress spent over $50,000,000 investigating and impeaching him. The lies of Mr. Bush and Mr. Cheney have cost almost 2500 dead American soldiers, upwards of 20,000 who have returned home badly wounded and crippled, and tens of thousands of dead Iraqis. Their lies have caused nations who might have been our allies to instead sympathize with our attackers and refuse to help us in our war on terror. But this Republican Congress refuses to even consider the possibility of impeachment. Clearly it is up to the American people to lead where our politicians fear to tread.
This brings us to Vermont. Town meeting is one of the few remaining forms of true American democracy. On Town Meeting Day, every citizen older than 18 becomes a legislator, with the opportunity to not only voice an opinion, but to also have the power of decision. Vermont has a long history of taking a stand on important issues reaching well beyond our borders. We waited 13 years as an independent Republic before joining the United States. Before the Civil War, because it was the right thing to do, Vermont refused to be bound by the fugitive slave law enacted by the federal government. In 1941, because it was the right thing to do, Vermont took action that was perceived as a declaration of war against Nazi Germany, weeks before the nation followed suite. During the cold war, when the U.S. and the Soviet Union were engaged in a dangerous and counterproductive nuclear arms race, scores of Vermont town meetings called for a nuclear freeze. These and similar actions have served as a call of conscience, and have forced the rest of the country to consider issues that they might have rather ignored.
As it is our tradition to speak out about our beliefs, it is our duty to defend the constitution and the rule of law when we see them flagrantly violated by our leaders.
The United States of America is at a crossroads. We could take the road marked by this administrations policies living in a state of permanent war, seeing all of our resources being drained into the maw of the military industrial complex about which Dwight D. Eisenhower so eloquently warned us watching our civil liberties being eroded and rescinded in the name of fighting their long war and seeing corporate giants continue to betray our privacy to the government in return for a place at the trough of power. And we shouldnt be surprised when we round the corner and see the sign that says Welcome to Fascism, a planned community.
Or we could take the path mapped out in our constitution, guided by the rule of law, where the government expresses the will of the people. Where, when the government proves to be renegade and lawless, the people have the gumption to stand up, to say enough, and to chart a course of corrective action.
Do we want our children to look back to this day and ask why failed to follow the Vermont tradition of speaking truth to power? Or do we want to add another proud chapter to our history of leading the nation back to the noble principles and ideals upon which it was founded?
Dan Dewalt is a musician/woodworker/teacher who authored the Newfane impeachment resolution passed at March 2006 town meetings.